Shortly before dawn, I got lost in the woods looking for my deer blind. Trapped and confused in morning darkness, the trees ranted at me, “You idiot! You can’t do anything right. You’re a mess.”
For twenty minutes, I wandered, railing at myself. Angry, I sat down on a log, put my head in my hands, and allowed the shame-monster to have its way with me—once again.
As I sat on the stump, I picked up my iPhone, pulled up Pray as You Go and read the day’s reading: “For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost,” were the words from Luke 19:10. Those words felt like they’d been Federal Expressed overnight.
“I am lost in the woods and filled with shame, Lord,” I said to the Creator. With tears streaming down my face, I prayed, “Can you lift this all too familiar shame from me? Help me find the way.”
The Problem with Shame
Shame is rampant within many of us. It rears its head as self-doubt and blame, jabs our psyche with self-inflicted anger, and can boil over into self-hate.
It comes from many sources, often from negative self-talk. Shame blasts us with hurtful words from loved ones or from people who project their insecurities onto us. The feeling we don’t measure up to others’ expectations often nips at our self-esteem. And unrealistic cultural standards of beauty, brawn, and brains can fill us with inner disgust.
According to the article, What Is Shame?, shame is “A feeling of embarrassment or humiliation that arises in relation to the perception of having done something dishonorable, immoral, or improper.”
Shame tells us we’ve done something wrong. We’re bad. And that feeling of being bad blocks us from seeing Divine Truth.
That morning in the woods as the sun rose, dawn’s light paved the way to my deer blind.
I pulled back the tent door and sat on the stool.
As I watched hues of crimson and orange paint the sky, I knew the words, “I’ve come to seek and save the lost,” were an invitation from the Creator. He was inviting me to a deeper inner healing—an invitation to let him transcend the shame that had plagued me.
For sixty-two years, I let shame have its way with me, beat me up, and stop me from being my true self. It blocked the unconditional love of God.
It was time to bring my shame to the Heavenly Father and let him bestow his wisdom and grace upon my heart. And for the first time in my life, I did.
I brought my shame into daily prayer, talked about it with God, and discussed it with Don, my spiritual director.
“What is your deepest desire?” Don asked.
“I want to live from my authentic self. I want to be assured I’m on the right path so I can follow God’s loving will and be filled with joy again.”
“You didn’t do anything wrong in the woods. You just got lost. And the beauty of it is God found you when you let yourself be lost—when you named your shame, held it in your hands, and asked God to heal you. Like many of us, you got stuck in shame and God sought to unstuck you.”
I listened as my director spoke the words my soul needed to hear.
“Shame differs from healthy guilt. Shame tells us we’re bad at our core. It’s what the unholy one used in the Garden of Eden to trick Adam and Eve into hiding from God. But God found them and helped them see their goodness. As a result, they let the Divine transform their shame into courage and self-respect,” Don said as timeless wisdom seeped into my heart.
“Healthy guilt occurs when we’ve done something wrong and need to correct our ways. It’s the God-nudge that says we need to examine our behavior and do some inner housework. Guilt reminds us we are good, and because of that, we can do better. Healthy guilt speaks with the voice of our soul, whereas shame speaks with the unholy one’s voice.”
The Soul’s Path to Integration and Wholeness
American philosopher Dallas Willard says that humans are comprised of four parts: intention, mind, body, and soul. You can picture them as concentric circles.
The Gift of Intention
The inner circle is our intention—our will—the capacity to choose.
The ability to make choices is a powerful gift, but it has its limits because sometimes we make a knee-jerk reaction and do things that aren’t healthy for us. We let our will run wild.
The Power of the Mind
The next circle is our minds—what we think and feel. It’s what we’re conscious of, and while the thinking mind is amazing, we can get stuck in our minds as thoughts and emotions ping-pong around inside of us.
The Body Incarnate
Our body makes up the next circle. It’s the vessel that contains our flesh and bones.
It allows us to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world. Through the body we incarnate love. When we receive our bodies as gifts we use them to spill compassion into the world through our relationships. But when the body becomes over-emphasized, it can become a pleasure-seeking villain.
The Soul Team
The will, mind, and body were never meant to operate alone. God created these three parts of our humanity to work in cooperation with all aspects of our Being, and, most important, with our soul.
The soul is the final circle and the largest. It integrates our will, mind, and body into a single, whole life. It’s connected to God like an umbilical cord so it can provide us with divine wisdom and guidance.
When we allow our souls to be the center of our lives, all parts of our Being work together. We function the way we’re designed, as a team. We then experience harmony, inner peace, and balance.
Drop the Shame
The shame that haunts us typically comes from our overthinking minds. We get unbalanced when we allow the mind to be the sole source of our operating system. It’s like driving a car without a steering wheel.
Shame cuts off the connection between our soul and our mind. And shame is noisy, shouting constantly so we can’t hear the inner voice of love that God wants to speak to us.
Christ came to seek and save us from getting lost in our overthinking minds. He wants to quiet the unholy voice of shame and instead fill us with the wisdom and guidance that comes from our soul’s connection with the Divine.
When we let ourselves be lost in Christ, we create space for the Creator to speak in us. Listen to the voice of your soul. Let it speak its truth to you.
Drop the shame, and nobody gets hurt—including ourselves.
—brian j plachta